Interview de Matthias Hues
To start with, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? What was the chain of events that made you go to the USA and work in the movie industry?
Well, I always liked films like most young people in my age and town. Arnold was big so was Stallone, it was an exciting time for us. These guys looked like real super heroes and we looked up to them and wanted to be like them. I guess I took it a bit more seriously back then, I trained hard knowing somehow my body would do the same thing for me one day. Not knowing it would lead me to do films but I was an athlete competing on a pretty high level in Germany In track and field, which led me to the weight room. And martial arts. But I kept my focus on the gym knowing that was how I could make money and be in the gym all day at the same time. So I opened a gym, great times, learned a lot about fitness and working out. One day I saw Rocky 4 and was so impressed with Dolph. So was a girl I had a crush on, in fact she made me feel real little by putting this guy so way high up that I knew unless I went to Hollywood I would never be measured up to it. One week later I sold my gym and landed in Hollywood.
America is often described as the land of opportunity and Hollywood is especially attracting to newcomers eager to success. Apparently, you arrived there with only 1400$ in your pocket and sometimes had to sleep in your car. What was your state of mind at that time? Have you always been convinced that acting was what you wanted to do, and determined to success no matter how?
There was at no time ever a doubt about me not going to make it in the business. I knew the stiff competition but I wasn't aware of it. I never thought about it, I was too busy doing it. I started on the ground floor, hit the streets every day looking how to break in. Learned while doing, adapted, grew into a bit more every day and kept my eye on the ball. I felt weak sometimes or not good enough at times, as everybody was so good looking and fit and could speak better English and so on, but I kept booking the jobs, even modelling as I thought "how could they even book me with all these other way better looking model type guys all over"... but I guess it was my free spirit and my excitement and my knowing I was at the right place at the right time... and I was German and looked so different, I mean it made me the bad guy right off the start. Of course I did had some hard times as well, not knowing where to spend the night, hungry and so on but when you're so young you do not think much about it. If I had to sleep in my car today I would crumble much faster. I used to sleep everywhere I could, in laundry rooms, garages, nice girl's place... or friends. If I lost my apartment I would just break in at night till it was rented again and sleep on the empty floor. Crazy now to even think of this. I took crazy jobs, collected money and protected sleazy characters and their business. Moved to Florida, danced for girls. And this is just the tip of the ice of what I did in between, I had so many amazing experiences I felt like true to most of the things I can portrait as an actor because I have seen or done it, except of course, crime, but having seen and dealt with others who are the real thing. Soon I was so known for being the bad guy that in every country in the world or the most dangerous places in LA, I was safe, by having fans right there. It was great to finally make a living with films and live a life of travel and see things while on different locations around the world.
After a small part in "Big Top Pee-Wee", you got your first important role in "No Retreat No Surrender 2: Raging Thunder", replacing Jean-Claude Van Damme and earning a 6000$ pay check. Because of JCVD not doing the film, fight choreographies had to be changed and, according to Roy Horan, you made your first steps in martial arts under the supervision of Korean super kicker Hwang-Jang Lee directly on the set. What memories do you keep of this experience with Hwang-Jang Lee and, more globally, of shooting in Thailand with Cynthia Rothrock, Max Thayer, Loren Avedon, and director Corey Yuen?
Yes, this was like a movie in a movie, I was the karate kid, I mean the outsider, the underdog, the guy everybody didn't want on that set...! I did leave it all behind and went on a mental and physical journey with Hwang-Jang Lee, trained every day, listened, learned, gathered wisdom and looked up to him like he is the messiah, I knew I had to make it out alive without losing my face. I would have rather eaten dirt all day than not raise to the occasion. The shooting went great, first I felt a lot of resentment but it turned into mutual respect as I gave my life to it. Everybody was a blast, the director, all the stunt guys who had to suffer under my brutal not controlling force at first but in the end all were happy, loved to fight with Cynthia and of course Loren who is a total pro.
A lot of good action films have been made in Asia in the 80's and 90's. After your experience with Corey Yuen on "NRNS2", have you ever been tempted to make films in Hong Kong?
To be honest, not really, I leave that to Gary Daniels and the others who live for the art of the martial arts, I am a fighter ok but not as good as they are. I am the bigger guy, it is harder for me. But I would say it is my favourite to watch, admire the art behind it. In real life I like fighting, I am good with my power and my height, and know how to use it. I mean sparing in the ring. If I could go back in time I would go for it professionally. I would be training for UFC. [Nanarland: Ultimate Fighting Championship]
"No Retreat No Surrender 2" was released in 1400 theaters around the US and launched your career in cinema. After that, you began to appear in a lot of films as the rough, brawny bad guy. Did you enjoy those kinds of roles? In fact, all the people we have interviewed that worked with you insisted on how you were a very gentle and amicable person. Did you ever have any problem playing evil or sadistic characters?
Well, at that time it was fun, but I got a bit down at times, I received so many letters from people all around the world who wanted me being the good guy, since the image of the pretty boy hero changed a bit to the real tough looking guys like Vin Diesel and so on. I had a great deal with a film company for three films being the hero, all kick ass productions like "Transporter", but the money fell through the last minute. But I am ok with it all, as I prepare for some new stuff and am ready to come out soon with different roles, some more dramatic and interesting than the good old bruiser type.
We read you put a lot of effort into losing weight for some parts, losing your native German accent and generally working hard to improve your skills as an actor, yet most of the time you were just asked to yell and grunt on the set as the regular hulking brute. How did you cope with that paradox? If you could go back to the early 90's, would you make different choices of films in your career?
I learned one thing: you can never look back and go back, all you can do is learn and move forward and make it better and more interesting. You grow in life, so will your roles. Look back at some actors how they looked ten years ago and what they do now, there are worlds in between and it is a natural development. Back then I did what I was told and what worked then might look stupid today, right! All films shot in the 80's and 90's are now almost comic to watch at times, they look so way over.